By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
November 21, 2012
We’re on the doorstep of Thanksgiving, and that can only mean one thing—lots of food, and lots of football. This holiday season, the NFL, its media partners and sponsors have a little more than usual to digest.
On the slightly unsavory side, the NFL’s broadcast partners are seeing a decline in viewer numbers through this week of the season compared to the same point last year. However, NFL games remain the most-watched programs on television, with game telecasts ranking as the most-viewed programs overall this fall.
NBC’s "Sunday Night Football" remains the No. 1 show on primetime TV, with 21.2 million viewers and a 12.8 Nielsen rating. ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” meanwhile, is averaging 13.1 million viewers and an 8.4 rating. The program remains the No. 1 cable show, and has maintained that rank every week since the season began. Finally, in the first season of its expanded 13-game schedule, NFL Network is averaging 6.4 million viewers and a 4.1 rating, putting it on pace for its best season of games yet.
The slight dip in ratings, of course, hasn’t stopped marketers from activating around NFL programming, and a robust Thanksgiving Day platter of games in particular.
From Nostradamus to Punxsutawney Phil to Paul the Octopus, prognosticators have long reigned supreme as a result of their knowledge and knack for predicting the future. Just in time for the Thanksgiving football bounty, Wild Turkey Bourbon introduces Jimmy Junior—a football-picking wild turkey.
Jimmy Junior has been training with former NFL All-Pro quarterback Vinny Testaverde, studying stats, analyzing plays, and preparing body and mind to make picks for each of the three Thanksgiving Day games—Detroit at Houston, Washington at Dallas and New England at New York Jets—in the Wild Turkey Triple Barrel Challenge.
“I’ve known about Jimmy Junior for a long time—he’s one of the best turkeys I’ve ever worked with. He’s good… he’s scary good,” Testaverde remarked during a recent training session. “I fully expect him to go three for three this Thanksgiving, giving turkeys everywhere something to gobble about."
Jimmy Junior picked his teams on Tuesday during an event in the heart of Times Square – and if the Patriots, Cowboys, and Lions don’t win, Testaverde and others will surely be crying fowl.
Not to be outdone in the overly-feathered department, just in time for Thanksgiving gridiron action is an update to the free to download, officially-licensed NFL 2013 Live Wallpaper app from Cellfish Studios, with new holiday scenery for Turkey Day, including a customizable bobble-head turkey.
On the more serious side, the NFL is using its Thanksgiving games to promote the league’s six-year-old Play 60 youth anti-obesity initiative.
At every game this week, Play 60 branding is featured on NFL fields, sidelines, and goal posts. Pregame activities include Play 60 kids leading home teams onto the fields; sponsor activation includes Xbox leveraging its Kinect for Xbox 360 through in-stadium branding and giving consoles to kids who excelled in each team’s local Play 60 program.
Quaker Oats, the NFL’s official hot cereal sponsor, continues to promote its Play 60 Super Bowl contest, whose winner will run the game ball onto the field prior to Super Bowl XLVII. The Dairy Management Inc. consortium is also promoting its in-school programs.
Thanksgiving is a time for giving, and the halftime show during each game will include a 90-second Play 60 spot featuring Kenny Chesney, who will be part of the Cowboys’ annual Salvation Army halftime show. Detroit’s United Way Thanksgiving halftime show will feature native Kid Rock.
In New Jersey, during NBC’s evening Patriots-Jets matchup, Hurricane Sandy first responders will be honored, and 75,000 fans will be given a Jets scarf and the chance to be on field for the halftime show featuring Lenny Kravitz, who will perform “Like A Jet,” which is part of league sponsor Pepsi’s NFL Anthem marketing program; Pepsi Next will also be poured outside MetLife Stadium.
Get ready for some food and football, and have a safe and bountiful Thanksgiving!